Articles Posted in Whistleblower

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Esther Moody Graff Radford led oral argument with extremely compelling arguments to her brief. The Court ruled from the bench denying summary judgment on all counts and our client will be now proceeding to trial after this victory.

The Georgia Whistleblower’s Act 45-1-4 is a powerful tool for public employees who report illegal activity in the workplace. Under this law, employees who report or testify about such activity are protected from retaliation by their employers. This means that an employer cannot fire, demote, or otherwise punish an employee for speaking up about illegal activity, as long as the employee has a good-faith belief that the activity is occurring.

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Check out Atlanta Women’s Magazine this month’s feature article.

Ms. Oinonen was asked by Atlanta Women’s Magazine: “Which woman inspires you and why?” to which she responded:

“Women lawyers who have gone into public service in either the executive, legislative, or judicial branches have inspired me. People like Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg to name just a few….I think the trick is finding the good in others that you can seek to emulate while learning to avoid shortcomings and mistakes. All of us have good/bad, strength/weaknesses and we can all learn from each other… the women that are a part of our law firm are an incredible inspiration to me. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with Esther, Muna, Michele, and Chanel. We all make a great team.”

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Courageous APS Whistleblower Dr. Jackson Reynolds successfully had her case dismissed before the Professional Standards Commission.

Dr. Jackson Reynolds was retaliated against after she reported the abuse of her special needs students that had been captured on video.

Dr. Jackson was forced to report the abuse to Child Protective Services and the Atlanta Police Department all by herself. APS never questioned her about the matter until she was compelled to go on the six o clock news, Nancy Grace on CNN, and other news media. Soon after she was called in for questioning and was summarily terminated from her position.

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Good Georgia Education Lawyer represents Dr. Jackson Reynolds, an APS whistleblower and former special education teacher who rescued her severely autistic special needs students from child abuse after she uncovered that certain paraprofessional staff had been physically assaulting them. She uncovered the abuse after setting up video cameras in her classroom and immediately reported the abuse within the 24 hour requisite period.

Dr. Jackson Reynolds had been complaining about the paraprofessionals negligent behavior to her Principal all year long to no avail. She repeatedly complained (well documented in writing) that they refused to do their job and watched movies all day long on their laptops. She was threatened by her supervisor after she made an attempt to report it to central office downtown. Subsequently, in an effort to prove what was happening, she set up the video cameras. It was then that she discovered the horrific reality of what actually was occurring to the children behind her back: staff abused the children when she stepped outside of the classroom, behind the partition wall to attend to diaper changes, or they were outside her line of vision.

After reporting the abuse to APS, APS failed to properly investigate, not even formally questioning her as to what she had seen. Shortly after reporting the abuse, Dr. Jackson was horrified to learn that APS concluded the investigation without questioning her or reporting it to Child Protective Services, claiming they had found no evidence even though the only people they had interviewed were the two abusers and a non-verbal autistic victim.

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Georgia Whistleblower Miss MaeDell Clark sues Floyd County School District for retaliation. The news story that explains how the District terminated Miss Maedell after she complained of being cheated out of her wages is here.

Here is a press release from the Georgia Association of Educators:
maedell clark.pdf

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workers.JPGOne of the main reasons many of our new clients contact our law firm is because they have heard how we were able to help save a friend or family member’s job and they need the same type of help. Oftentimes, they believe their boss is about to fire them because they see the writing on the wall, for example, they have just been placed on a professional improvement plan or professional development plan and they know their boss is building a paper trail against them to set them up for termination.

If that describes your situation, one of the most important thing you can do is to retain legal counsel immediately. As we tell clients, it is often quite difficult to “unring the bell” once the bell has been rung, i.e. an employee has been terminated from their job. However, before this happens, there is often time enough for legal intervention.

As many of you know, Georgia is an “at-will” employment state also known as a “right to work state.” This is really a misnomer as it should be called a “right to fire at will state.” This means, barring a legal exception, your boss can fire you simply because he or she doesn’t like you. That is reason enough as long as they not liking you doesn’t have to do with them not liking a protected status, for example, your skin color or the fact you are pregnant. There are several federal civil rights laws that protect employees from such type of discrimination, the most well-known of course being Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an individual regarding his employment because of an individual’s race, color, religion, or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000 e-2(a)(1).

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justice-scales-gavel-fb.jpegChoosing a good lawyer to help you with a case, such as wrongful death, contract dispute, employment termination; asset forfeiture, and excessive force, can be very difficult.

Many blog posts advise you to make sure that (1) you feel comfortable with the lawyer you choose and that (2) the lawyer you choose has sound experience and understanding in the area you need representation in. While all that is true, there is one area that also demonstrates the quality of representation you will be obtaining to handle your case: your lawyer’s willingness and ability to handle an appeal of your case in front of a higher court.

Foremost, you may not read a lot of blog posts that talk about handling an appeal of your case in front of higher courts, because that means something may have went wrong with your case in the lower court. But here’s the reality: when you are going up against cities, school districts; law enforcement officials; public officials; big corporations; and hospitals–whether you win or lose at the lower court (trial court), one party is going to appeal, or threaten to appeal the loss, to the higher court (Appeals Court).

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The Georgia Whistleblower Act, codified under O.C.G.A. §45-1-4, protects public employees from wrongful termination or retaliation as a consequence of their ‘whistleblowing’ activity.

To summarize, the law states that a public employer cannot retaliate against a public employee for disclosing noncompliance or violation of a law, rule or regulation to a government agency or supervisor, or for refusing to participate in any policy, practice, or activity of the public employer that the employee has a reasonable cause to belief that noncompliance or a violation of the law, rule, or regulation is occurring.

What is retaliation? This could refer to a discharge, suspension, demotion, or any other adverse employment action taken by a public employer against the public employee in the terms of their employment.

If you are an employee who works for a public employer (an executive, judicial, or legislative branch of the state; any other department, board, bureau, commission, authority, or other agency of the state which employs or appoints a public employee or public employees; or any local or regional governmental entity that receives any funds from the State of Georgia or any state agency O.C.G.A. § 45-1-4) then the Georgia Whistleblower Act may apply.

If in the event you experience any type of demotion, suspension, or discharge as a result of participating in protected whistleblowing activity, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible in order to protect your rights. A public employee may file an action against their employer within one year of discovering the retaliation or within three years of the retaliation.
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Years without accountability for big corporations, banks, and Wall Street resulted in the greatest financial crisis since the 1930’s Depression. Eight million jobs were lost,
the housing market plummeted, businesses went bankrupt, and millions lost their personal savings and retirements. Consequently, more and more people have become aware of the devastating impact corporate fraud can create on the economy and individual Americans.

As a result, studies show that a greater number of employees are willing to become whistleblowers: turning in their employer for corruption, fraud, and wrongdoing. One of the motivating factors prompting employees to come forward is the incentive of financial reward that is paid out to whistleblowers who report false claims.

According to the federal government, there has been a spike in whistleblower cases filed with the U.S. government since 2005. Americans have become more exposed to the enormous corporate scandals involving subprime mortgage lenders, Bernie Madoff, or Enron–where the entire company has fallen apart and destroyed thousands of employees and shareholders’ financial futures, gravely impacting the economy. Consequently, there is a greater awareness concerning the importance of blowing the whistle on corporate fraud.

For example, just last week the federal government ordered Bank of America to pay a whistleblower close to a million dollars in interest and back wages and was required to reinstate an employee who showed great courage in reporting fraud and standing up against it.

This is a positive trend that will in turn protect consumers, employees, and hopefully help prevent future scandals from causing such devastating impact. Nevertheless, corporations fear such results. And now, a new law–the Dodd Frank Financial Reform law–has been implemented providing monetary rewards for whistleblowers who report financial fraud.

Good Georgia Lawyer represents whistleblowers in qui tam or false claims whistleblower actions. We encourage you to read here to learn more.
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whistleblower.JPGGood Georgia Lawyer represents whistleblower employees who “blow the whistle” on their employer when they come forward with information that their employer is defrauding the government by violating the Federal False Claims Act. Federal prosecutors report that they have added two new health care fraud teams this year and studies say that this might provide an 85 percent increase in the number of health care fraud prosecutions in 2011 compared to 2010.

Thus far, 903 prosecutions for health fraud have ben reported so far this year of 2011. This is actually a a 24% increase from last year’s total in 2010.

The recent past two year debate about health care reform has drawn the spotlight on the problem of health care fraud and its effect on the cost of health care. The Department of Justice reports that convictions have increased, so far there has been 24 trial convictions for fraud in Medicare compared to 23 last year.

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